Having lived in a place going on 30 years, you'd think I would have explored all of the great spots long ago. Great restaurants, stunning gardens, best hikes. But no. Either I'm way too boring or our area is so full of wonderful places that it's impossible to exhaust the list of new and surprising discoveries in a lifetime or two of expeditions.
In the Oregonian's Homes and Gardens section a couple of weeks ago was an article on a nursery I'd never heard of called Dancing Oaks. It was started back in the late 90s when Leonard Foltz and Fred Weisensee attended a Hardy Plant Society lecture by plantsmen Wayne Winterrowd and Joe Eck. It led them to move to Fred's boyhood farm south of Monmouth to establish an extensive nursery with jaw-droppingly beautiful demonstration gardens that is a must-see destination for any gardener.
And unlike many nurseries with display gardens, it has year-round interest so you can return season after season and see a completely different garden. And their selection of plants rivals any I've seen in the region, with rare and unusual varieties filling their greenhouses and prices that are very reasonable, especially given the unusual varieties found there. This would make an ideal day trip with a pal or visiting friends, and you get to drive through some of the gorgeous farmland of the central Willamette Valley, with hayfields, dairies and little towns along the way. Just remember to have plenty of extra room in the car to stash the plants you're going to be bringing home.
Details: Dancing Oaks Nursery, 17900 Priem Road, Monmouth. Phone 503-838-6058.